On Friday, April 12, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced his agency is planning to ramp up installation of a super-fast 5G network in the United States. 5G, which already exists in China and some small deployments in the U.S., is about 10 times faster than the 4G LTE Internet most cell phone users enjoy.
In a speech at the White House, Pai said government support of networking companies to build the 5G network will not only help the U.S. economy, it will also improve Americans’ lives, especially those who have not previously had broadband Internet. The federal government will soon auction off the wireless spectrum that will enable carriers to roll out 5G wireless networks across the U.S. New cell towers will have to be built or upgraded, which Pai said will provide many jobs for Americans.
“The second reason U.S. leadership matters is that 5G will improve Americans’ lives in so many ways,” Pai said. “From precision agriculture to smart transportation networks to telemedicine and more, we want Americans to be the first to benefit from this new digital revolution, while protecting our innovators and citizens. And we don’t want rural Americans to be left behind.”
Related: How Are 4G and 5G Different? (Lifewire)
The FCC aims to create a new $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund at the FCC. This money will extend high-speed broadband to up to four million homes and small businesses in rural America. These next-generation networks will bring greater economic opportunity to America’s Heartland and will help support future 5G technologies, Pai said.
According to technology news site Ars Technica, projects sponsored by the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund could be several times faster than the Internet speeds farmers and rural residents are used to.
In November 2018, Pai said he’s proposing to raise the standard for subsidized deployments from 10Mbps/1Mbps to 25Mbps/3Mbps. But the program announced today will also try to go beyond the 25Mbps/3Mbps minimum. In an email to reporters, Pai’s office said the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will “provide up to gigabit-speed broadband in the parts of the country most in need of connectivity.”
The new fund is “the FCC’s single biggest step yet to close the digital divide and will connect up to four million rural homes and small businesses to high-speed broadband networks,” Pai’s office also said.
About 20 million Americans lack access to fixed broadband with speeds of at least 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up, according to FCC data.